She draws in a breath. “I had a thought that could potentially help us even before you told me about the photos being public.”

I nod as if to tell her to go ahead, and it’s as if my mouth has ceased working.

“My idea is just a way to throw my brother off our trail and, at the same time, get Colin to back off. It’s a win-win that way. And you had mentioned the other night that you want the focus to be on your career rather than on what different woman is on your arm at every event, and this would be a way to, uh…have the same woman on your arm at every event.”

My brows crash together as I have no idea what the fuck she’s talking about. “Okay…” I say, drawing out the word. “Out with it. What are you thinking?”

“A fake relationship,” she says, and her tone is a little proud, a little confident, and a little nervous all at the same time.

“A fake what now?” I ask.

“We pretend we’re dating. For the media, of course, and we tell Beck it’s just for show, a way for you to protect me from my ex since he asked you to protect me.” She lifts both shoulders and holds them up for a few beats.

I shake my head as I push to my feet. “No. Absolutely not. I don’t want to make this any worse, and I don’t want to lie to Beckett.”

“We wouldn’t be lying to Beckett,” she says.

“How is that not a lie?” My tone comes out with a huge dose of exasperation. “We’d explain away the photos by telling him we were faking it?”

“We were faking it in front of Colin. How is that a lie?”

He sighs. “It’s not the whole truth.”

“No, it’s not. And do either of us really want to give Beckett the whole truth that you laid me down on the bed right in the next room, stripped me naked, sucked on my—”

“Okay, okay, I get it,” I say, holding up a hand as I interrupt her before she says exactly what I sucked on since hearing those words fall from her mouth will only make me want to do it again. Harder. Faster. More. Now.

I exhale roughly, and then my phone starts to ring. I slide it out of my pocket and glance at the screen, and then I flash it at her. “Great. Just fucking great. I’m sure he saw the photos by now.”

“Then ignore the call,” she says, shrugging.

I press my lips together as I slide to answer the call. I wander over toward the window and start pacing in front of it. “Beckett Maxwell, how the fuck are you doing, man?”

“Care to explain why your tongue is shoved so far down my sister’s throat you’re probably tasting what she had for lunch?” He’s seething, clearly asking from between a clenched jaw, and I…


I think fast.

“Dude, that’s why I called you earlier. To explain before the pictures hit the media.” Fuck! Shit! That’s a lie. I called him hungover this morning to ask him if I could date his sister, but his reaction to the photo of me kissing her is not a great one, so I’m guessing the idea of me being with her isn’t going to fly.

“Okay. Then explain.”

“Yeah, okay. So…” I trail off, and my eyes meet hers. And then, before I know what the fuck is happening, the lie falls from my tongue. “Your sister and I are in a fake relationship. Her ex is trying to win her back, and she just wants him to disappear, so I did what I had to do when I said I’d protect her.”

Beckett is silent on the other end of the line, and Ava sits up a little straighter from her position on the couch as she watches me carefully.

When Beckett finally speaks, his tone is much more relaxed. “Oh. Uh…I guess—thank you, then. For protecting her.”

“Of course, man. It’s what friends do.”

What they don’t do is fuck their friends’ little sisters and then lie about it.

And yet…here I am, doing exactly that.